The carbon and biodiversity footprints of the City of Tampere have been calculated: food procurement makes up the largest biodiversity footprint

The City of Tampere, together with the University of Jyväskylä, has calculated the biodiversity and carbon footprints of the Tampere city organisation. The result shows for the first time the impact to biodiversity caused by a large urban organisation.

The footprints have been calculated using a methodology developed by the University of Jyväskylä's Resource Wisdom community, JYU.Wisdom. The methodology uses scientific databases, the organisation's financial accounting and other consumption data to calculate the biodiversity footprint of organisations.

Tampere is the first city in Finland, if not worldwide, to calculate its own biodiversity footprint. The city and the university have worked together to develop a calculation method tailored to the city organisation, which can be used by other cities, too.  

– Calculating an organisation's footprint allows for more strategic targets and measures to halt the biodiversity impact. What makes the methodology special is that it allows us to take into account the impact of an organisation's procurement and other consumption both within and outside the country. A joint project between the City of Tampere and the University of Jyväskylä has shown that it is possible to calculate the biodiversity footprint of a large urban organisation. The methodology for calculating the footprint will be published openly for use by all other pioneering organisations, says Janne Kotiaho, Director of JYU.Wisdom and Professor of Ecology.

Better choices reduce the harm 

Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are intertwined with climate change to create a huge global challenge. Meeting this challenge will require changes in consumption patterns and behaviour across all sectors of society. The key to improving performance is to manage and reduce impacts, which can be achieved by understanding where our biodiversity footprint comes from.

– Tampere wants to lead the way in protecting both the climate and biodiversity. In addition to protecting local nature, we need to identify the most significant impacts on biodiversity through our supply chains and actively seek ways to reduce them. In 2021, the city purchased more than €1 billion worth of goods and services. The city therefore has many opportunities to reduce harmful impacts through better choices. The city can do this, for example, by setting biodiversity and climate-related procurement criteria in its tenders, says Kari Kankaala, the city's Director of Environment and Development. 

Food procurement have the largest biodiversity footprint

The largest share of the 2021 biodiversity footprint of the City of Tampere was caused by food procurement (22%), the second largest by heat consumption (13%) and the third largest by construction (12%). The largest share of the carbon footprint of the City of Tampere (22%) was caused by heat consumption. The use of peat for district heating in particular contributed to the negative impact of heating. Food accounted for 14% of the carbon footprint and construction for 13%.

Among food products, red meat had the largest biodiversity footprint (34%). Red meat includes products made from beef, pork and sheep. Dairy products (22%) and poultry (10%) had the next largest footprints. Red meat also accounted for the largest share of the carbon footprint of food (37%).

Although food had the largest biodiversity footprint, food procurement in euro accounted for only about 3% of total procurement. In particular, land use by meat products increases the food footprint. All meat products together accounted for more than 50% of the food biodiversity footprint.

Table of the biodiversity footprint of City of Tampere.
The biodiversity footprint of the City of Tampere by consumption categories.
The table of carbon footprint of City of Tampere.
The carbon footprint of the City of Tampere by consumption categories.

A large part of the City of Tampere's food procurement comes from the food services provided by Pirkanmaan Voimia.  

– The report proves that we at Voimia are focusing on the right things when it comes to food procurement and menu planning. The pace of progress must take into account the wishes and preferences of our food customers. Changes on the plate must be made in a positive and inclusive way, and food education in collaboration with nurseries and schools is particularly important. We will increase the attractiveness of vegetarian food and pay attention to the climate and biodiversity impacts of raw materials. In practice, this means, for example, partially replacing meat, rice and dairy products with lower-carbon raw materials in food preparation. These products can be replaced with vegetable protein, chicken, fish, grain-based products or potatoes, for example, says Saija Lehtonen, Development Director at Voimia

Circular economy solutions reduce biodiversity footprint and save natural resources 

The study also compared a street infrastructure investment project carried out following circular economy principles with a renovation project carried out using conventional methods.  

The calculations show that the biodiversity and the carbon footprint of the Yliopistonkatu Street renovation using circular economy principles is about 35% lower than that of the conventional renovation. The impacts were reduced in particular through more efficient use of materials and reduced use of transport. This is the first time that a biodiversity footprint has been calculated for a street infrastructure investment.

A significant part of the biodiversity footprint outside Finland

Due to supply chains, most of the biodiversity footprint caused by consumption is generated outside Finland. For example, up to 96% of the biodiversity footprint of land use is located in other countries (Figure 3). 
The largest footprints typically occur in countries with high biodiversity, where the impact caused affects many animal and plant species. The results can be used, for example, to consider compensations. For example, the city can target emissions offsets from flights to countries where not only carbon sequestration but also biodiversity impact is prevented as effectively as possible. 

– Tampere is committed to promoting the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes global responsibility. We must ensure that the adverse impacts of our activities are minimised in other countries as well, says Kankaala.  

A world map with the land use impact highlighted in orange.
The biodiversity footprint of the land use of Tampere.

Further information

Emmi Nieminen
Development Specialist
+358 44 423 5136
Janne Kotiaho
University of Jyväskylä Professor
+358 50 594 6881
Krista Pokkinen
University of Jyväskylä Project researcher
Sami El Geneidy
University of Jyväskylä PhD Researcher
+358 40 532 9892
Text: Essi Lehtinen and Krista Pokkinen
Photos: Tampere Taivaalta
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